LAUREL RUN, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Racers, start your engines!
The first day of a local historic motor racing tradition is in the books. The weekend event returned Saturday after a year off due to the pandemic.
Drivers and fans from across the nation gathered in Laurel Run for the Giants Despair Hillclimb.
The annual two-day race puts even the most skilled drivers to the test.
A familiar sound that’s echoed throughout the hills of Laurel Run Borough each July for the last 115 years. Except for 2020, when engines and exhaust pipes were silenced due to the pandemic.
“Last year, COVID prevented the event from happening. So, as you can see, all the drivers, spectators, everybody’s glad to be back,” Giants Despair Hillclimb Association vice president Bill Feist said.
Thousands came out Saturday for the historic Hillclimb’s return. It’s located just southeast of Wilkes-Barre Township. The contest was originally run as a part of Wilkes-Barre’s centennial celebration. First held in 1906, the Giants Despair Hillclimb is the oldest continuing motorsport event in Pennsylvania.
Spectators with wide eyes watched as brave racers lined up on East Northampton Street. Their task? Conquer the one-mile hill of thrills as fast as possible. Drivers face steep, windy mountains, and even a 110-degree turn called Devil’s Elbow.
But for many, it’s a lifelong tradition that’s more than just a race to the finish line.
“I’ve been coming here since I’ve been five years old. My father used to bring me. It’s one of the greatest weekends in the summer that I look forward to,” Sheffe Abraham of Wilkes-Barre said.
“I’ve been coming to the event since I was a kid, and I’ve been helping with friends in the pits for the last 20 years, probably. It’s great for the local businesses, it’s also local pride in your community,” Ryan Evans of Laurel Run said.
The current record-holder for the fastest climb is John Burke, who ran the course in just over 38 seconds. The racecars will hit the pavement again Sunday morning starting at 9 a.m.